Saturday, December 1, 2012

Day 1 a very marginal opening day but still fun

I took todays title from the warning boards put up by Ski Patrol at the top of Bear telling us of some very marginal skiing conditions. A title suggested by a buddy was "best day so far" but I decided to go with my original idea - sorry Katie. Comments from my many and various ski buddies ranged from ok to crappy with nothing on the upside of ok - judge for yourselves when you read the details. So why do I say it was fun? Well, anyone who knows me knows that I get my fun out of skiing by taking the challenges thrown up by the conditions and the terrain on the hill and mastering ( well at least giving it my best shot) them. Tough conditions like today are fun when you take them on and have a day skiing when you were in control at least most of the time.

It rained all night and was still raining on the way to the hill with temps of +1. At the hill it rose to around +3 and continued raining. The snow line was just below the top of Bear so with the very limited opening you were skiing in the rain showers pretty well all of the time. Around 1 o'clock the rain suddenly stopped and we had clearing skies for the rest of the day with temps dropping back to around zero so by the end things were starting to set up quite firmly. Driving back the rain came on strong again with +2 in the valley and a promise of cooling temps and snow, or at least a snow rain mix over the next few days.

As a result of rain almost to the top starting conditions were pretty aweful. Grooming had taken place sometime before the precip in most places so there was a firm if rather mushy base. On top was the rain snow mix which was heavy elephant snot in most places. The first few runs were very tough indeed with a lot of physicality having to be used to push the "snow" around. Because of the limited opening the skier traffic soon had the effect of pisting the snow and provided bumps to help turning. Coverage was desperately thin with many bare patches, rocks, alders sticking through. The ski off the hill was particularly sketchy to the point where they were allowing downloading on Elk if you wanted. By the end of the day most of the snow had been compacted and as it set up in the cooling conditions there was some pretty ok skiing to be had but the bare patchs had got bigger and the rocks, particularly just below Bears Den were very prominant.

According to official reports we had 25 runs open which I guess if you cound every gully and side track might be true. What we really had was the Bear down to Bear loading and the Elk to base. North Ridge was open and quite nice if a bit tough and then Emily's down to Haul Back. The only thing open from the top of Haul Back was View Trail to Boomerang to complete the circuit. So it came down to a couple of groomers not really groomed and some trail skiing. Despite the limited terrain a lot of fun could be had on what was available as runs which would normally be considered easy developed challenges all of their own.

We started at first bell as tradition demanded but by lunch Lynda had decided that there would be better days and took the afternoon off. I skied bell to bell with a couple of breaks and really started to feel all the usual problems by the endb( thigh ache, first day feet etc) none of this was made any better by the fact that we were still wet from the mornings rain. It was a day for my super expensive rain jacket ( a yellow plastic jacket 10 bucks from Canadian Tire) which once again did sterling service. By 4 I was certainly ready for the first Griz Bar of the year - great to meet up with so many friends.

So, as I said, a pretty sketchy opening which proved to be rather more fun than looked likely. I think it is all to do with expectations. We went to the hill expecting nothing (I understand it was a call late last night as whether or not we had an opening at all) and we got something. It wasn't very good but against our expectations it felt like a good day on the hill. More snow in the forecast so fingers crossed for a big improvement this week.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Day Zero

At least I guess it's day zero. I was going to put -1 but as tomorrow would be day 1 then I would go straight from -1 to +1 without passing through zero which doesn't feel right. I am sure there is some math genius out there who will put me straight.

The weather forecasters got it wrong - and I'm willing to bet the farm that it will not be the last time this season I have to type those words. The forecast had been for the rain turning to snow over night with today being a rain snow mix. In the event it rained all night with temps getting down to +1 and has continued to rain off and on all day with temps of about +3 and a little warmer at the hill.

With not much to do other than an audit of the ski gear to remind ourselves of exactly what we have and what combinations (and they sometimes are combinations) are needed in the various conditions, I met up with Rob and we took his truck up to the hill for a first hand look. The top was socked in but we could see 80% of the way up and there was no snow line visible which was very discouraging.

As we were standing there the ski patrol came off the hill and we chatted to some of our buddies. It was raining pretty well all the way to the top and the whole area was very sketchy with sking possible only on certain tracks within the Old Side. No word from the New Side but it looked as if you would have to download on Timber if you wanted to get down. I guess Whitepass would be ok but the word is that it will be an Old Side only opening this weekend and even that very restricted. Everyone was soaked to the skin and not having very much fun. I did get my view confirmed that there has been a lot of ground work done on the Big Three and Siberia Ridge so when the snow comes we will be able to ski them without having to take a chain saw with us to deal with the alders.

We went up to the newly decorated Griz Bar and met the usual crew up there getting ready to cater to our daily beer needs. The decoration has got rid of some of my favourite old features and pictures but on the whole was not as bad as many of the "improvements" I have seen to my various dinking holes over the years.

The forecast remains for a cooling trend with precip at some stage turning to snow. Given the track record of the forecasters so far I am not holding my breath. The snow report claims a 70 cm base which it may be at the snow plot but as we don't ski on the snow plot I would guess we will be skiing on less than half that base.

So, looking forward to opening day tomorrow but if it rains as looks likely it could be one of the poorest openings on record. Not to worry as things are usually sketchy early season and sliding around on snow (no matter how wet or heavy) before Christmas has to be better than not. My worst day on the hill still beats the crap out of my best day in the office.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back Again

Yes - arrived on Wednesday evening a couple of hours late (thanks Air Transat) getting on the ground at about 8:30. We would never have made it to Fernie if it hadn't been for the two best buddies that anyone could have in the world. Rob and Katie took time off work to drive down from Fernie to pick us up and dropped us at the house around midnight - 7 in the morning according to our body clocks. We are of course in a shocking state of jet lag but with any luck things should have sorted themselves our a bit in time for opening day at the hill on Saturday.

Since I wrote in the fall a lot of things have happened. I wrote about training to run a couple of marathons and running the Fernie half. In the event the half was slow and training just got harder and harder with great weight loss (about 4 stone = 56 pounds), I developed the shakes and became very weak. In the end I collapsed at the docs with a resting heart rate of 130 and was rushed into hospital. It turned out I had a massively over active thyroid with thyroxine levels about 5 times what they should be. Everything now under control with drugs but the muscle loss is huge (still 3 stone down in weight) so sking might be a bit slow to start with. On the other hand with less weight the muscles that are left have less work to do so perhaps I can go at it even more full on than usual.

Today as the first day in town has been the usual round of getting things sorted - car started and insured, hot tub fired up, decks and drives cleared, ski gear sorted out, skis taken to the lockers on the hill, phone connected, cable TV sorted, internet back on line etc.etc. Most important was the visit to the hill to pick up the season passes and sign all the waivers. But I am sure no one is interested in my health or domestic arrangements so on with the skiing related matters.

There isn't much snow around in town although the hills seem to have a reasonable covering. Temps are drifting into low positive figures during the day and the pricip that we have had and are forecast to have over the next few days is coming down as a snow rain mix in the valley during the day and wet snow on the hill turning to snow overnight. The outlook for next week is for temps drifting lower and the precip turning to snow at least in the early part of next week.

The hill is claiming about a 50 cm snow base which looks very optimistic to me but I will hold my judgement until I have actually been up there and skied. Opening is due to go ahead on time but reading between the lines it looks like an old side only opening with very restricted terrain - lift prices are actually being reduced and that doesn't happen unless the skiing is very restricted indeed. I've skied opening days in worse conditions ( 4 years ago we opened with 30 cms) so we should be able to slide around and have fun even if it isn't vintage stuff. Certainly it will be the rock skies that get used at first and the Shoguns probably won't be making an appearance this side of Christmas.

Just looking up the hill it seems to me that a lot of work has gone on with the Big Three and Siberia Ridge taking out the ground cover that cause so many problems last year. Even in the thin cover they all at least look attemptable whereas last year with over a metre of snow on the ground they were still a nightmare. Further reports will be forthcomming when I actually get up there.

So it's going to be an early night to get shot of the jet lag and continue with the odd jobs tomorrow (puting a shelf in my new bigger locker for a start) ready for opening on Saturday. Great to see all my friends around town and to be in contact with my blog followers for another year. If you like what you read do tell a friend.